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UM Touts Improving COVID-19 Numbers, Cancels Spring Break


The university, following the lead of other schools, is skipping spring break to limit the risk that student travel would lead to a spike in COVID-19 transmission.

Updated 11:30 a.m., Friday Oct. 2

University of Miami President Julio Frenk argued the Coral Gables private school is successfully “slowing the spread” of coronavirus, citing two days in the last week when there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported among students and staff.

That’s despite a requirement that all on-campus students now must be tested at least once every two weeks.

“After a peak of 42 cases following the Labor Day holiday, even with expanded testing, new daily cases are now in the single digits,” Frenk said during a video message on Wednesday evening.

“Contact tracing tells us that there has been no transmission of the virus in classrooms thus far,” said Frenk, who is a global public health expert.

Asked for evidence to back up Frenk's claim, a spokesperson for the university provided this statement from Erin Kobetz, vice provost for research and scholarship. Also a professor of medicine and public health sciences, Kobetz oversees the university's testing and tracing efforts.

"The University's contact tracing team communicates with all known positives as part of contact tracing," Kobetz said. "Nearly all of them are able to identify their source of exposure. If the team sees more than two positives in a class, they can follow up to identify whether the interaction is class-based or social.

"In all instances, the transmission has been through social contact outside of the classroom," she said.

Following the lead of other universities around the state, UM is canceling its spring break next year to limit the risk that student travel would lead to a spike in COVID-19 transmission.

Classes for the spring semester will start Jan. 25, one week later than originally planned.

“In lieu of spring break — which would significantly heighten the risk of exposure to COVID-19 — the semester will feature two ‘wellness Wednesdays’ to give students a break from instruction,” Frenk said

Copyright 2020 Health News Florida

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.
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